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Questionable Things We Ignored In iCarly

In September 2007, the Dan Schneider-helmed sitcom "iCarly" made its debut on Nickelodeon. The series ran for five years and racked up nearly 100 episodes, garnering immense fan support along the way. "iCarly" focuses on the titular Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove) and her two best friends Sam Puckett (Jennette McCurdy) and Freddie Benson (Nathan Kress). We see the trio get into all kinds of shenanigans revolving around both their homegrown web show and their personal lives. Along for the ride are Carly's older brother and guardian Spencer (Jerry Trainor) and her other friend Gibby (Noah Munck). Throughout the original series, they contend with the likes of rival content creators, obsessed stalkers, and various other pitfalls that come with online fame.

As with many shows from our youths, it's fun to take a magnifying glass to this series later on, whether it's to catch jokes we didn't understand back then or references we were too young to register. However, there are more than just a few gags that warrant a closer look: We had to ignore number of questionable things, some of them with much more serious undertones, when we first watched "iCarly."

How does Spencer afford the apartment?

It's not uncommon for sitcom sets to be a bit grander than what the average person can afford, but "iCarly" is pushing it! Spencer and Carly's apartment, one of the major settings for the entire series, is an immense living space. The pad is not only adorned with copious quirky props, but is complete with multiple levels and a private elevator. Young viewers of the show accepted this set as simply a quirky setting for the cast. However, from young adulthood onward, audiences might find themselves asking a fair question: How does Spencer afford this high-rise apartment in downtown Seattle?

It's worth noting that Carly's brother doesn't have a standard 9-to-5 job, working instead as a freelance artist. Spencer gets some high-profile gigs throughout the series, but even in these cases, the profit is often thrown into jeopardy by Spencer's free-wheeling personality. In "iStage an Intervention," his newfound Pak-Rat gaming addiction nearly prevents him from finishing a dog sculpture for a big client.

And not every sculpture Spencer makes throughout the series is for profit in the first place. More often, he works for his own creative satisfaction. In fact, just as frequently as he meets with financial success, Spencer seems to have trouble finding clients (and even general acceptance) for his eccentric work. So with the consistency of his income in question, the scale of the apartment does raise some questions. It would arguably be expensive even for 

Spencer Shay: ladies' man

Responsible for many of the show's most quotable and hysterical lines, Spencer is a definite fan favorite. From his often eccentric attire to his ridiculous artwork and sculptures, Spencer is the kind of adult many kids strive to be: one who's still very much a child at heart. Spencer, despite his quirky nature, is shown to be very supportive and protective of Carly as her main guardian.

Aside from comedy and heart, however, there's one other reason Spencer stands out within the series: His never-ending rotation of attractive one-off dates and love interests! This zany, rapid, and often ill-fated dating cycle probably stands out more to teens and young adults than it would to younger viewers.

Spencer's constantly-in-flux love life provides the grounds for many of the series' funniest jokes. There is Ms. Lauren Ackerman, an unstable teacher of Carly's whom Spencer dates in the episode "iHave a Lovesick Teacher." Lauren initially comes off as very charming, but eventually reveals her crazed and obsessive nature, immediately putting Spencer off. Then there is Sasha Striker, introduced in "iStage an Intervention" as the world's top Pak-Rat player. The gang looks to break Spencer away from his newfound Pak-Rat obsession by recruiting Sasha to best him in a one-on-one match and break his spirit. Spencer wins this contest, however, and afterwards shares mutual respect with Sasha — even ending with a very passionate kiss!

Some of Spencer's romantic exploits (both the unlikely spark that ignites them and the inevitable crashing and burning) are a bit difficult to believe, it's true. But they're hilarious to watch!

The actual content of the iCarly webcast

What's strange about going back and re-watching "iCarly" nowadays is just how prophetic it was in terms of online culture. While a definite tongue-in-cheek parody, the content Carly and Sam conjure up for their in-universe show is not completely unrealistic. From hidden camera pranks to nonsensical humor to increasingly surreal visuals, their webcast covers a lot of ground that real-life internet culture has traversed itself both before and since.

The amount of insane skits and sketches presented on Sam and Carly's web show is dense enough to populate a separate list. There are, of course, the instantly recognizable segments that "iCarly" fans remember, such as Baby Spencer and Random Dancing. Augmenting these are classics like George, a spooky-voiced bra that tells bad ghost stories, and one-off gags like filling anthropomorphic garbage bags with mayonnaise and squeezing the condiment out like snot from drawn-on nostrils.

Even in a fictional context, it's impressive that Carly and Sam are able to conjure up this madness weekly! This aspect of the Nick show was honestly ahead of its time, especially considering the rise of various weekly YouTube shows and sketches throughout the 2010s. Nowadays, many online content creators utilize eclectic sets, random sound effects, and jokes of increasing absurdity. As silly as "iCarly" is, it really hit the mark with its foresight regarding online comedy creators. It's not so much "questionable" in a bad way: We just want to know how they pulled it off!

The iCarly gang's various crimes

A frequent occurrence in sitcoms of all kinds is the main characters' enjoyment of Karma Houdini status. This trope refers to storylines in which characters, despite engaging in legally and sometimes ethically dubious activity, end up karmically unscathed. There are rarely any repercussions for the kind of behavior that would, in real life, result in anything from damaged interpersonal relationships to jail time.

Aside from the occasional call-back joke, the characters never mention such incidents again and move on without concern. "iCarly" is no stranger to this trope: One of the most notable examples comes in the episode "iWant More Viewers." While competing with Sam and Carly to grow the web show's viewer base, Freddie and Spencer erect an LED sign above a major Seattle highway. This leads to a massive multi-car pileup, but our Karma Houdinis avoid jail time over the incident. (And they also seemingly avoid lasting guilt for the injuries and deaths they probably caused.)

Additionally, there's the episode "iGo Nuclear," where Carly, in order to avoid a lame school trip, tries to pass a science project. This results in Spencer introducing her to a new tenant who claims he can build an eco-friendly generator for her assignment. He's eventually revealed to be on the FBI's Most Wanted list, and what he has built is an illegal nuclear generator. Carly and Spencer again face no consequences for their involvement in such a serious crime.

Sam's relationship with her mother

Sam Puckett, alongside Spencer, has gone down as one of the series' most quotable characters. The inimitable character is known for her sassy comebacks, affinity for junk food, and hilarious ability to manhandle just about anyone twice her size. Sam's affinity for junk food and her general demeanor both stem from the exact same source: her mother.

Sam's father, long out of the picture, is scarcely mentioned, only used for the occasional gag pertaining to Sam's upbringing. Throughout the early seasons of the series, Sam's mom is only referenced as an offscreen figure. She's often used as the reason why Sam spends all of her time at Carly's house, even when Carly and Spencer are gone. From yelling at her cat to get a job to driving to (well, into) Sam's school after her laser eye treatment, the slow reveal of Sam's mother helps her daughter's personality make increasingly more sense. The effect a parent has on their child is something that you don't tend to pick up on until adulthood — but in Sam's case, it's both apparent and unfortunate.

Mama Pam Puckett doesn't make an official onscreen appearance until Season 4's "iSam's Mom." She's portrayed by Jane Lynch, known for her work on all kinds of projects, from "Glee" to "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." After fighting the entire episode, the mother and daughter eventually reconcile and declare their love for each other. But they clearly still have a lot to work through.

All of the feet

Well ... It's a Dan Schneider show ... We were bound to end up here eventually.

If you were a frequent viewer of Dan Schneider's television catalogue in your youth, you might've noticed a very particular running gag. This was, of course, the Nickelodeon creator's bizarre affinity for sight gags, shots, and even storylines centering the actors' feet. Common in almost all of Schneider's shows, from "The Amanda Show" to "Zoey 101" to "Victorious," bare feet appear with notable frequency. Examples include Sam using her feet to text instead of her hands, and both girls putting little faces and wigs on their toes for a webcast sketch. And then there's "iToe Fat Cakes," where Carly gets her toe stuck in the faucet after watching a character do the same on "The Dick Van Dyke Show."

This pattern has been used as the basis for fan speculation that Dan, much like Quentin Tarantino, has a foot fetish. While he's denied this possibility emphatically, it's so synonymous with his work that there are an ample amount of memes poking fun at Schneider for it. To a young viewer watching the show, it might come off as just another goofy visual gag among many. But with the benefit of hindsight, this pattern comes off as much weirder and more confusing given its prevalence. Something strange is afoot.

The mistreatment of Freddie

One of the characters undergoes many significant changes, both in personality and physique, throughout the series: Freddie Benson. Freddie is initially introduced as Carly's across-the-hall neighbor who is obsessed with being her boyfriend and also serves as the web show's tech expert. For one thing, he starts off as shorter than Carly and Sam and hits his growth spurt during the show — but more importantly, he grows as a person and learns to stand up for himself.

The most notable thing about Freddie's character at first is how much mental and physical abuse he takes on a regular basis — not only from Sam, who consistently batters and verbally denigrates him at every available opportunity, but from his own mother! Mrs. Benson, a recurring character, has an unhealthy obsession with her son's health and whereabouts. The ultimate helicopter parent, she often subjects Freddie to random body checks and increasing degrees of social humiliation. One of the most extreme examples would be when she forces Freddie to sign a shower contract to prove he has cleaned himself thoroughly.

The consistently harsh treatment of Freddie from all angles comes off as far more cruel and mean-spirited on a second pass. It's definitely problematic that this dynamic is primarily played for laughs, but the show redeems itself a bit by depicting Freddie's growth into his own person through all of the adversity.

iCarly's replacement swear words

Finding creative ways to get around broadcast standards and practices is a staple of serialized television: There's a department at every TV network that's responsible for the moral, ethical, and legal implications of the network's various programs and their subject matter, but writers still want to have fun. "iCarly" is no stranger to slipping in risqué content when it can, especially through its ridiculous replacement swear words.

Whereas many shows employ words that rhyme with their unapproved four-letter counterparts, "iCarly" opts for a much more absurd approach. The writers of this show simply throw random words together, and the actors deliver them with a level of emphasis that suggests these made-up terms amount to profanity in the "iCarly" universe. One of the most prevalent throughout the series is "skunkbag," which is funny for a whole slew of reasons. The term conjures up a bizarre visual, and it's a wacky time trying to figure out exactly which swear word it's standing in for.

There's also the one-off insult "hobknocker," used by Wade Collins in the episode "iRocked the Vote." Wade, a pompous pop star the crew have agreed to help, uses it with great frequency to insult them. There is also "jank" or "janky," which is as a stand-in expletive describing anything that's totally lame. These fictional swears and insults are essential in giving "iCarly" its distinct flavor and identity as a series, though they are a completely ridiculous example of artistic license.

Where is Carly's mom?

The Ambiguously Absent Parent trope is a quite prevalent one throughout most of "iCarly." As we mentioned before, Sam's mother, often absent in her life, doesn't make an on-screen debut until Season 4. While Spencer and Carly are discussing the financial situation in the Shay household, we note the absence of Carly and Spencer's father. It's mentioned at various points throughout the original series that their father, Colonel Shay, is in the Air Force. This is corroborated by a colleague of his, Colonel Roger Morgan, who brings the Shay children gifts from their father in "iRue the Day."

Colonel Shay, after much speculation, finally makes an onscreen appearance in the series finale "iGoodbye." It's important to note just how much the series teased and hyped up the eventual appearance for this character. This is because the presence, even if only through reference, of Papa Shay stands in stark contrast to how little information is given about Carly and Spencer's mother.

In the original series, the character is never mentioned, not even getting a throwaway joke like Sam's deadbeat dad does. It wouldn't be until the year 2021, with the release of the "iCarly" reboot, that Mrs. Shay would receive any acknowledgment. Carly is asked what her parents do for a living, but when asked about her mother, she simply changes the subject. This definitely opens the door for rampant speculation: If there was a simple explanation, Carly probably wouldn't have avoided the subject. The mystery of Mrs. Shay is a dangling thread that can no longer be ignored.